Big Idea Productions started out just as its name suggests. In
1989, Phil Vischer had an idea to teach children solid moral
values via new cutting edge computer animation. After a few years
of brainstorming and development, Vischer finally obtained the
resources to begin production of the very first VeggieTales
episode. So in July of 1993, computer animator and storyteller
Phil Vischer founded Big Idea Productions in his spare bedroom
with just one computer. With the help of two art school graduates
and his college buddy Mike Nawrocki, they successfully completed
the first full-length 3D computer animated children's video in
North America, Where's God When I'm S-Scared. From here
the rest is history, or shall I say, Biblical history.
The VeggieTale phenomenon is really quite staggering. Through
virtually word of mouth alone, Big Idea Productions has now sold
well over 8 million videos worldwide, and this trend shows no
sign of slowing. Their product, what once could only be found at
Christian bookstores, can now be purchased at almost any major
retail outlet in the world. It's clear these crazy vegetables
have quite a following.
If you've never heard of VeggieTales before don't feel bad. For,
if you would have asked me six months ago what VeggieTales were
I'd have told you they are some kind of mutant growth that
occasionally graces the butt end of an enormous orange gourd. But
today I'm much wiser, and I am now very familiar with the show
and its Bible-related messages. Now it should be made clear that
I'm not even remotely religious and would have never sat down to
watch these shows if my cousin's little ones hadn't been
mesmerized by them, constantly glued to the TV like sap on a
tree. But once I sat down to watch an episode I thought the shows
were fantastic and effectively taught decent morals and good
virtues. However I still cringed every time these loveable
animated vegetables mentioned that you should act a certain way
because "God wanted you too," and not because it was
merely the courteous thing to do. Despite the peachiness of these
shows, they are witty, comical, and always educational.
Jonah - A VeggieTales Movie is Big Idea's first crack at
a feature-length film. Needless to say they pulled it off well,
making a remarkable movie that looks 100 times better than their
previous releases of the flagship show. If you play any of the
VeggieTale's videos side by side with Jonah, the
difference in the quality of animation is so dramatic it will hit
you like the aftermath of slapping Mike Tyson on his ass in a lonely
locker room. The animation is still quite a few notches below the
computer animation giant Pixar, but it's safe to say that Big
Idea is gaining on them faster than Pixar is pulling away. To sum
it up, Jonah looks, sounds, and plays substantially better than
any other VeggieTales video preceding it.
Jonah tells the story of the famous prophet Jonah, who
defied God's will because he didn't agree that really bad people
deserve second chances. The story is meant to teach people
compassion and mercy. Now even though I don't personally believe
in the authenticity of this Biblical story, I admire the method
and humor that is used to help children understand the importance
of being compassionate. The movie begins with our beloved gang of
goofy, limbless vegetables heading to a concert to hear their favorite
musician, Twippo. However, the selfish actions of Laura Carrot
cause the gang to crash their microbus next to a mysterious
seafood restaurant. At the restaurant Junior Asparagus meets a
misfit trio of root beer slurping, cheese curl craving, pirates
(the self-proclaimed Pirates Who Don't Do Anything) who then tell
him the tale of Jonah. Before too long, the entire VeggieTales
gang is caught up in the grand story of the ancient prophet. And
not surprisingly, everyone learns a valuable lesson in the end.
Jonah - A VeggieTales Movie is a fantastic looking DVD
that offers an amazing soundtrack, a plethora of special
features, and tons of fun. If you're big into the Bible and its
teachings this movie has to be in your collection, period. And if
you're not religious or a Christian, you may still appreciate the
terrific humor and hugely entertaining supplements this disc has
Video: Jonah is presented in both
1.33:1 full screen and 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture
here is nearly flawless. If it wasn't for a minor touch of
pixelization found in the background shots this would be a
perfect 5-star video. The pristine look of this DVD should be of
no surprise to anyone seeing how this was a direct
digital-to-digital transfer. The pixelization is no doubt due to
the compression administered in order to fit the feature on this
DVD. Perhaps the video might have looked better if they would
have dumped one of the three audio commentaries, offered on Disc
1. Oh well, this is a minor quibble.
Like I said, everything here is almost perfect. Colors are as
bright and punchy as you could ever hope for. The picture is as
clean and crisp as it gets. Black levels look true, and the print
is totally absent of any blemishes, streaks or dirty flaws. Edge
enhancement? Not a trace. In short, this is a nearly perfect
(EDIT) Upon closer inspection, this DVD will look "almost perfect" on a small TV set, however if you view it on a large projection system, the picture will greatly degrade in quality. The pixelation I found earlier becomes a much larger problem for those using projection TV's. Potential buyers should be wary of this fact.
Audio: Jonah offers two audio
soundtracks, a Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 audio track. The clear
winner here is the 5.1 track that thankfully follows suit with
the spectacular video transfer. There really is nothing bad you
can say about the audio. The dialogue is crystal clear; the bass
is nice and strong when appropriate scenes call for it, there's
nice separation in the surround speakers, and the musical score
along with the ferociously fun songs make you feel like you're in
a cathedral listening to them live. The surround usage can get
very involving at times, and is most notable in the storm scene
when our cast is out at sea trying to figure out whom to throw
overboard in order to please God. The crackling thunder sounds
very realistic and makes you feel like you're in for some big
In the VeggieTales universe the religiously aimed songs are just
as important as the action, so naturally the sound crew made sure
this DVD sounded as good as it possibly could. I think it's safe
to say they achieved their goal.
Extras: Hold on now, I'm going to need to catch
my breath before tackling this section, because this disc is
practically overflowing with enjoyable, upbeat, and creative
special features. Jonah is a kid movie, and Big Idea
Productions went out of their way to make this DVD as fun as
possible for children.
On disc one, we find three, yes that's three, separate audio
commentaries. They are all great additions to this package and
each one offers something unique.
Phil Vischer & Mike Nawrocki: These two
co-directed and wrote the movie, Jonah, and are both
highly entertaining and never let up. There's never a lengthy
spot of dead air and for the most part give very interesting
information as to the development of the movie. But it's clear
these two love to have fun, because they tend to go off at times
about things that don't really pertain to the scenes at hand.
However this is never annoying because their constant banter is
Ameake Owens & Marc Vulcano: Owens is the
producer and Vulcano is the director of animation. Here's where
you'll find most of the meat and potatoes of useful information.
These two both offer a wealth of production notes that are both
interesting and informative. The only downside is that this pair
lacks the hyper enthusiasm of Vischer and Nawrocki, so it may be
harder for most to make it through to the end.
Larry the Cucumber & Mr. Lunt: Here we have
Vischer and Nawrocki returning for another commentary, only this
time they do it in their special character voices. This was
without a doubt the craziest, outright pointless, and most
enjoyable commentary I've ever had the good fortune to hear.
Talking as if they were real life actors in the movie, these two
often go off in insane tangents about the oddest things that have
nothing to do with the movie. The crazy thing is, this kind of
commentary could spell disaster if not done right; however the
constant and always hysterical antics of Larry and Mr. Lunt never
ceased to make me laugh. What makes this commentary even better,
is that it is 100 percent adlib, so everything they say is
totally on the fly. It's incredibly impressive to see just how
well these two friends can improvise together so flawlessly. The
only possible downside to this feature is that I found it
substantially funnier than the movie itself. For me, this is no
doubt because here they can just be goofy, without all of the
religious talk. Anyone who watches this movie owes it to them
self to listen to this commentary. I promise you won't be sorry.
Behind The Scenes
Making the Movie: (11:12) This is a featurette
that gives you some inside information as to the making of Jonah
- A VeggieTales Movie. Here you'll learn about Big Idea's
new building, casting choices done for the film, software
development that needed to created to finish the movie, and
computer problems they encountered.
The Studio Process: (7:00) This featurette takes
the viewer through the various stages of the studio process, such
as the story, storyboards, pitching the storyboards, hand
drawings, voice recording, 3D modeling, camera workers,
animators, lighting technicians, the render farms used to
finalize the picture and the musical numbers and score added for
the final edit.
Big Idea Tour: (12:00) This is a silly tour
administered by Big Idea Productions CEO and founder, Phil
Vischer. Basically Phil takes you around the building to meet the
staff, and make fun of everything he sees. This was fun to watch
and is definitely worth viewing.
Jonah and the Bible: (5:30) Here we learn how the
writing crew determined exactly what lines from the actual Bible
story would make it into the movie script. They wanted to make
sure all the important plot points from the story were there,
without bogging down the movie with boring dialogue. After all,
this is a kid movie.
Khalil Auditions: Here are four failed auditions
for the brand new character, Khalil. After listening to these
auditions, it's clear why these candidates weren't chosen.
Character Bios: Here are humorous bios of the
various VeggieTales gang.
The Score: (8:00) This is basically an interview
featurette with Vischer and musical composer Kurt Heinecki. It
was interesting to hear how crudely the musical elements for the
movie were created. Probably half of the score elements started
out as on-the-spot humming by Vischer.
Score Progression Reels: Here are some early
concept tunes hummed by Vischer playing aside rough versions of
Superchick Pirate Remix: (2:46) This is a remixed
song sung by the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.
Belly Of The Whale: Here are music videos of the
songs "Belly of the Whale" and "Million
Pieces" performed by the Newsboys.
Billy Joe McGuffey: Here are music videos of the
songs "Billy Joe McGuffey" which is heard in the
opening sequence of the movie, and "The Other Side Of The
Radio" performed by Chris Rice.
Outtakes/Outtakes (Spanish): These are funny
outtakes from the movie. On the average, I found these not as
humorous as the outtakes found on the Pixar movies, but there
were a couple that made me chuckle a little. Still, it's nice to
have these as a special feature. The Spanish outtakes were almost
funnier at times, but I think I thought this because I'm not
Progression Reels: Here you have three scenes
that have been broken down into the progression stages of
development for you to view how they came together as a finished
product. The three scenes are: "Jonah enters Joppa/Ship Deck
Concept Art: Here you have two segments of
concept art to view, but the really nice thing about this feature
is that you may view the art with commentary by Michael Spooner
and Joe Sapulich. This was a nice touch.
Digital Dailies: Along with the audio commentary
with Larry and Mr. Lunt, this was probably the funniest special
feature on this DVD. Here we have our familiar VeggieTales
friends Larry and Mr. Lunt, paired with Jonah newcomer Khalil (a
half worm half caterpillar creature) to give commentary of the
daily scenes to edit. They call this process "the
dailies" where they view the scenes that were shot for the
day and decide if they work or need to be re-shot. The scenes
used for this segment are obviously rough attempts at animation,
and can look extremely funny. So naturally, our opinionated trio
has a lot to say about it. If you feel like laughing, check this
Extra Countertop Scenes: (6:20) Here we find a
segment where Bob the Tomato and Larry talk about the lessons
that can be learned from their new movie Jonah. They then must
try to convince their friend Archibald Asparagus that it's safe
to come out of his dressing room to start shooting the movie.
This whole segment is rendered exactly how the regular
VeggieTales episodes are, so it doesn't look nearly as good as
the movie Jonah. Also, I found this segment to be rather boring.
Trailers & Previews
Trailers & Previews: Here you'll find six
separate trailers and previews for, Jonah, Little Joe,
Larryboy, 3-2-1 Penguins!, Jonah Game, and the Jonah soundtrack.
Khalil's Answering Machine: Here you can listen
to both Khalil's incoming and outgoing messages from his own
personal answering machine. This is fairly humorous, as you get
to hear some of Khalil's more quotable sayings, as well as
messages he leaves to himself as reminders. This is definitely
worth a listen.
Jonah Sing-Along: This is a sing-along with the
final musical number sung by Jonah, A.K.A Twippo. The lyrics to
the final song are always displayed at the bottom of the screen,
but you have the choice of cutting out the lyrics sung by the
VeggieTales if you want to sing it all on your own. This was a
very nice feature.
Trivia Challenge: Here we have two sets of 10
trivia questions pertaining to the movie. You can choose between
hard and easy.
Interactive Storybook: This is a rhyming tale
about the town of Nineveh told in the same manner as a Dr. Seuss
book. You may choose for Larry the Cucumber to read it for you,
or you can read it yourself without Larry's help. The animation
for this segment is 2D, and looks quite nice for a read-along.
This is a good feature to enjoy with your children.
Family Fun Activities: Here are two games that
you can play with your family. The first game is Blind Puzzle.
The purpose of this game is to teach you compassion. The second
game is called Second Chance Card. This purpose of this game is
to teach you mercy.
Games: Pop this DVD into your computers' DVD ROM
drive and you'll find no less than six interactive games. I
swear, Big Idea Productions thought of everything didn't they.
Menus: Jonah has the most stunning and utterly
hilarious collection of animated menus I've ever come across on a
DVD. The 3D menus look fantastic, and if you listen to each of
them long enough, you can pick up some hilarious dialogue from
the VeggieTales characters.
It is here in these menus where you'll find all four of the
Easter Eggs found on Disc 2.
Rusty Sprocket Show Interview: (3:10) This Easter
Egg is found on the fish tank in the opening main menu. This is a
short interview of Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato given by
Rusty Sprocket, the robot comedian of 3-1-2 Penguins fame.
Khalil's Motivational Speaker: This Easter Egg
can be found as a highlighted bowling ball on the guitar in the
menu for "The Music." Here you'll hear some additional
quotes from Khalil's motivational tape he uses in the movie.
Bootleg Movie Recording: This Easter Egg can be
found as a root beer bottle in the "Bonus Material"
menu. Here you'll see a hilarious incident where the pair of
French Pea's attempt to make a bootleg recording of Jonah in a
movie theater. The dialogue is intentionally similar to a famous
Monty Python sketch from the movie Monty Python and the Holy
Chinese Bootleg Box Cover: This Easter Egg is
found as a bowling ball in the "Trailers &
Previews" menu. This is exactly as the title suggests.
Alternate Jonah Plush Toy Slogans: You can find
this Easter Egg by highlighting the button on the Moby Blaster
game in the "Fun!" menu. These are some different
slogans made by Khalil's cuddly Jonah plush toy.
Jonah - A VeggieTales Movie is huge step forward for
Big Idea Productions. The overall animation is quickly catching
up to the current animation heavyweight champ, Pixar. And if what
we're seeing is any indication of things to come, I'm sure we can
expect great things from Big Idea in the future.
Jonah is funny, well written, and perfectly voiced by
its entirely in-house cast. The special features are a real hoot,
and can at times create more laughs than the main feature itself.
Even if you're not a Christian, there is something you can gain
by watching this movie. Religious or not, there's no denying that
Jonah is destined to be one of the best DVD's of 2003.